Like so many of my obsessions, this one began with a Seinfeld rerun. The one where Elaine’s gruff father comes to visit and totally intimidates the crap out of Jerry and George, which, come to think of it, isn’t very difficult.
At some point in this show, Jerry is wearing slippers. That’s right, slippers!
I turned to Susan and said something along the lines of: “That’s just plain ridiculous, men don’t wear slippers.” She told me I was wrong, and that most men wear slippers.
“How the heck do you know this?” I asked suspiciously. Susan ignored me.
“Seriously,” I added. “I know men, and we wear socks – sweat socks. Not slippers.”
This went back and forth, pretty much ruining the next episode of Seinfeld, until finally, we made a $100 bet about whether or not men wore slippers. I was totally and absolutely confident I would win. I’m a guy, I know what we wear and it’s not slippers. We laugh at slippers.
Or so I thought.
A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was James, my pasty-faced, computer geek friend. “James, do you wear slippers?” I asked, knowing the answer was no.
“Yeah,” he said.
I was too shocked to speak.
“But only in the winter,” he quickly added, embarrassed to admit the awful truth to another man. “We have hardwood floors and they’re cold. And the slippers were a gift; I didn’t buy them.”
A few minutes later, another friend called, and I asked him if he wore slippers
“Yes,” Jim said.
He too could immediately tell I was stunned and he quickly began backtracking. “It’s not like I bought them – someone gave them to my father and they didn’t fit, so he gave them to me.
I called my friend Howard. Surely he would bail me out. Not only was his answer yes, but he actually bragged about his big, fluffy slippers.
“And I wear a nightshirt,” Howard added.
“Without any underwear?”
“You betcha,” Howard said – and I could see the gleam in his eyes right through the phone lines. Note to self: Howard can never sleep over at our house.
Since this pretty much covered all my friends, I had to wait until work the next day to continue my investigation, which wasn’t going the way I had expected.
Kyle: “In the winter I do – I have a nice pair of fleece-lined slippers.”
When Kyle saw the look of disgust on my face, he quickly added they were a gift and he’d never, ever bought himself a pair of slippers.
I was starting to think no man, in the history of slippers, has ever actually bought himself a pair of slippers.
Vance: “Sure, what am I supposed to wear?”
Jeff: “Yes, I wear moccasins.” His mother-in-law gave them to him.
Gary: “Sure, they keep my feet warm.”
Damon: “No, I go barefoot.” Finally! Someone to restore my faith in mankind.
Harry: “No, that’s an old man’s thing.”
Mike: I wear socks.”
The tide was turning in my favor.
Leo: “No way, they’re girly.”
A few seconds later, Leo asked if Toasties counted.
“Toasties, what the heck are Toasties?” I asked. “You mean Post Toasties, the cereal. You can’t wear them on your feet.”
“No, those thick socks with padding on the bottom,” Leo said.
For the next three hours, the newsroom debated whether Toasties count as slippers or socks. We finally decided they don’t qualify, but are even more girly than slippers and Leo would have to buy us all the first two rounds of beer.
Finally, I called my father. Dad would have my back. Then again…
“I wear slippers, a beautiful pair your mother bought for my birthday,” he said, breaking my heart.
“But I only wear them in the winter,” Dad added. “And I never used to wear them when I was your age.”
“When did you start?”
“When I was around 45.”
Uh-oh, this means I’m genetically predisposed to eventually wear slippers, and that I owe Susan $100 bucks. Oh God, I hope she doesn’t use the money to buy me a pair of slippers. That would be just plan cruel.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t do that,” Susan said. “I saw a beautiful pair of slippers that cost $100 in the Nordstrom catalogue for me that I am in love with. I never would have spent so much on slippers, but now, why not?”
Note: This is a column I wrote back on September 19, 1999 in The Intelligencer. And … I still don’t wear slippers. Sweat sox! How about you?